The Girl Who Heard Colors

Marie Harris, illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Penguin/Paulsen, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-25643-1

With the publication of books like Daniel Tammet’s Born on a Blue Day, synesthesia has gone from an obscure medical phenomenon to a more widely known cultural term. Harris’s (Primary Numbers) story is addressed both to the small population of children who hear colors and smell words, and to the friends, schoolmates, and teachers who may be puzzled by these experiences. She describes Jillian’s mixture of visual and aural sensations simply: “When she heard a dog barking she saw bright red.” When a lunchbox drops and the teacher asks what has happened, Jillian answers, “Yellow!” Her classmates laugh at Jillian: “When she heard their laughter, she saw inky black.” A doctor says Jillian is healthy, but doesn’t address her sense of being different; it’s a visiting musician who gives her sensations a name. Brantley-Newton (Mister and Lady Day) provides lively, stylish spreads and keeps close to the information given in the text. This is clearly meant as a resource for teachers and librarians; it’s less likely to draw readers on its own. Ages 3–5. Author’s agent: Jeff Dwyer, Dwyer & O’Grady. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Sept.)